Experience the diverse landscapes of Morocco, from cool mountain forests and coastal towns to rocky outcrops that rise out of lush oases. With your camera in hand, discover the enchanting cities of Marrakech and Fez, venture into rose-colored kasbahs, and snap portraits of traditional Berber families in their mountain villages. Photograph the ancient adobe village of Aït Benhaddou lit up by the late-afternoon sun, and ride into the Sahara on a camel to capture the sun setting on the dunes.
Depart on an overnight flight to Casablanca. After time to relax the following morning, visit the extraordinary Hassan II Mosque, whose 689-foot minaret is the world's tallest. After lunch, photograph the city’s Habous district and the mechouar, the ceremonial meeting place outside the Royal Palace. Tonight, gather for a festive welcome dinner overlooking the sea.
Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche (L,D)
Drive through the elegant Anfa neighborhood
on the way to Marrakech, Morocco’s legendary
“pearl of the South.” Enjoy a poolside lunch at the
hotel before delving into the heart of Marrakech. Get a fresh angle on the splendid Koutoubia Mosque and the Saadian Tombs, and focus on the mosaics and traditional architecture of Bahia Palace. With your camera in hand, explore the labyrinthine streets of the medina, lined with market stalls and craftspeople. Capture the colorful chaos of Djemma el Fna Square, where there are great photographic opportunities around every corner, from snake charmers and magicians to cooks and musicians. Tonight, gather for a rooftop reception and dinner accompanied by traditional Gnaoua music in the heart of the old medina.
Le Méridien N'Fis (B,L,D)
Spend another full day experiencing Marrakech through your viewfinder. Photograph a range of exotic plants in the stunning Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent. Explore historic Moroccan architecture with visits to the 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrassa and the Museum of Marrakech, located in the Dar Menebhi Palace. After lunch, head back into the lively medina for a photo shoot.
Le Méridien N'Fis (B,L)
Cross the High Atlas Mountains over the Tichka
Pass, stopping for mint tea at a traditional Berber
village. Proceed to Aït Benhaddou for lunch overlooking this ancient fortified village before venturing into its warren of twisting lanes and adobe homes for a photo shoot in the golden afternoon sun. Continue to Ouarzazate, a former colonial trading post, now known for its movie studios where films like Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were shot.
Le Berbère Palace (B,L,D)
Capture the intricate details of traditional adobe architecture in Taourirt Kasbah this morning. Then set out on the fabled Road of 1,000 Kasbahs, stopping to take photographs as we pass lush oases and dramatic geology. Arrive in Boumalne Dades, a small town nestled amid the crags and plateaus of the semidesert landscape. After lunch, head out on a photo hike in the dramatic Dades Gorge and document everyday life during visits to nearby villages.
Xaluca Dades (B,L,D)
Continue along the Road of 1,000 Kasbahs to Erfoud, passing spectacular rock formations, oases, and rose plantations. In Erfoud, climb into 4x4s for the drive into the desert. In the suq of Rissani, a historic camel caravan stop, train your lens on shining mounds of olives and dates, brightly painted ceramics, and hand-woven rugs. Later, ride into the desert on a camel to photograph the sunset on the Saharan dunes. Arrive at our deluxe Berber tented camp in time to dine under the star-studded sky and enjoy an evening of Berber folk music and tales around the campfire.
Bivouac Tented Berber Camp (B,L,D)
Awaken early for a photo walk across the sandscape as the rising sun paints the dunes orange and gold. Return to the camp for a hearty breakfast. Then head north into the high-mountain plains on your way to Fez, stopping for a walk in a lush cedar forest. Arrive in Fez late this afternoon, and settle into your room at the legendary Palais Jamai, your home for the next three nights.
Palais Jamai (B,L,D)
Spend the day exploring this magnificent imperial city. At the 14th-century Bou Inania madrassa, photograph intricately carved stucco walls, arches, and cornices. Zoom in on the exquisite mosaics that cover Nejjarine Fountain, and visit the Kairaouine Mosque. Venture into the vibrant medina, where merchants preside over colorful mounds of spices and tanners soak skins in vats of dye. Later, visit the Royal Palace and Fes Jdid, home to the historic Jewish quarter.
Palais Jamai (B,L)
Today you may choose to explore Fez at your own pace or take an excursion to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a World Heritage site; and Meknes, Morocco's 17th-century capital. Tonight, toast our Moroccan adventure at a farewell dinner and belly-dancing performance at the Palais Jamai.
Palais Jamai (B,D)
This morning, transfer to the Fez airport for your return flight or transfer to Casablanca for flights departing in the afternoon.
Cotton Coulson is an award-winning photographer and contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Cotton began his photography career at National Geographic when he was 21 years old, and has photographed more than 20 stories for National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Traveler. Cotton has shot stories from the Arctic and Scandinavia to Italy and France, and has also traveled to North Africa and Antarctica with the Society.
A Certified Apple Aperture Instructor, Cotton is a graduate of NYU Film School. He was photo director at The Baltimore Sun and associate director of photography at U.S. News & World Report. He also served as a senior vice president at CNET Networks, where he managed the creative design and product teams. Cotton was a cinematographer on the documentary film Seeds of Hope: Meeting the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.
Cotton will join the following departure:
May 09 - 19, 2014
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,180. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from New York to Casablanca, and return from Fez, is $1,400 (subject to change).
Our hotels are first-class, well-located properties that reflect the character of each region. In Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and Fez, each hotel has a lovely pool and stunning tropical gardens. Our camp in Merzouga features deluxe Berber-style tents with en suite bathrooms and generator-powered electricity.